The rage provoked by the ongoing child rape scandal within the hierarchy and priesthood of the Catholic Church is justified and understandable. The use of a self-defined moral authority as a vehicle to access children for rape and the cover up of those crimes by the Vatican and its appointees, is just unacceptable. Children have a right to the protection of the law, of the government, of society. They certainly have the right to the protection of any purported moral authority. When an institution allows itself to become a vehicle for the use and abuse of children, it forfeits its right to respect and influence. The reform of that institution, of its most basic foundations is essential. That doesn’t come without profound change.
Child rape is one of the most obvious violations of the rights and lives of children. It has the potential to damage them, during their childhoods and in their adult years. Some children never recover from the pain and betrayal of those who are supposed to protect them. Some die, in adulthood or as children. While I haven’t read any cases of children dying by the hands of their priestly abusers, that is a possibility.
For those of us who are horrified onlookers to this, it’s justified and easy to be outraged, our demands that the law, if not the Church cease and desist, to find and publish the truth, to make whatever partial compensation is possible is a moral and civic duty.
But there are other abuses of children that go on, constantly, all around us, to little or no objection by those who see them every day. Those of us who have objected to the commercial and media exploitation of children, of the use of them are about as welcome as the reporters in the Boston Globe who broke the pedophile priest scandal were by the Archdiocese of Boston under the infamous Bernard Law.
The left has a strange history with the pornography industry, that’s been talked about here before. An industry that negates and denies the most basic foundations of liberal values, is, nonetheless, championed on the basis of some of our more automatic, catechistic formulations. The discrepancy between the two, conflicting, values is made even wider by the issue when it is children who are the objects used in pornography. When a nominal liberal is worried about the slippery slope that the suppression of child pornography could, possibly, provide, they are, nonetheless, ignoring the fact that child pornography is as much child abuse as priestly child rape. Children can’t give meaningful consent. There is no possibility for child pornography to be anything but child rape. That the media might be endangered by suppression of child pornography is no sounder an excuse than the protection of religious liberty and autonomy.
Soft porn, using children up into the teenage years, is as much exploitation of those unable to give meaningful consent, at ages of some of the known victims of predatory priests. That some of that soft porn is now part of the advertising-entertainment mainstream should lead to condemnation of it by the same people who are decrying the acceptance of the hierarchs who had ulterior motives in covering up accusations of child abuse.
Yet the children who are exploited, damaged and even killed by those forms of exploitation are sacrificed in far larger numbers on the altar of free speech and free press, to rare objections by the champions of libertarianism in those forms.
Of course, there are other forms of child murder and abuse than through the sex trade. Children are regularly destroyed in the industrial systems of countries which do little or nothing to protect them. The topic is constantly ignored, it is met with indifference and boredom all through the political spectrum. There are few, if any, effective bans on the products produced by child labor and neglect. The tardiness of governments in enforcing laws protecting children, both by producers and as consumers of the poisons and dangers sold to their parents, at the lowest price, is certainly as much of a crime against children as Ratzinger’s. That the reason for it is the protection of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in one case and the “principles” of free trade and the market in the other is no great difference. Children die, children are injured by adults who use them.
The use of children by the media, as the softest mark in the profit generation of industry, is no different. A pedophile priest coaxes HIS victim into a destructive relationship in remarkably similar ways to the way that an advertiser does. Often in full view of the parents, often with the unthinking participation of the parents. Children are talked into all kinds of things by adults using the freedoms to dupe them granted by courts and the law. We have been habituated to see this as normal, even as good. If we don’t break that habit, if we don’t look at the results, at the children harmed and killed and stunted and maintained in ignorance, we aren’t really that much different from Joseph Ratzinger. And our excuses are no less empty.
You wonder how much of the junk that will be fed to children, tomorrow, on Easter was made with the blood of child workers somewhere. You wonder how much of it poisons the children consuming it, maybe even more than children exploited in its creation. And all bought for the lowest price, still far more than the children, or their parents, will see in days of work.